NASHVILLE – Forward Jordan Greenway’s mission is straightforward.
“Help this team,” he said. “Do whatever it takes to win.”
But his late-season look with the Wild, which began Tuesday with his professional debut against the Predators, also stands to benefit Greenway by giving him a preview of the NHL — insight he can use next season when he works to be a regular.
“It’s definitely going to help out a lot, just gaining some experience,” the 21-year-old said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, so this will make it a little easier going into next season. It will definitely help me down the line.”
Although he wrapped his collegiate career sans a national championship at Boston University, Greenway knew it was time for a new challenge. And even before joining the Wild, he began to prep for the change in competition by surveying former teammates — including Coyotes rookie Clayton Keller, who played alongside Greenway last season in Boston.
“He just said to continue doing what I’ve done to get this far and continue to play the game I play and don’t try to change anything,” Greenway said. “It’s going to be a little quicker with some better players, so I’m just going to go out there and have fun.”
Much of the focus is on how much Greenway can boost the Wild as it continues to jockey for a playoff spot, especially since his rugged style seems to become more of an asset as the games get tighter. But the lessons he takes from this stint could end up setting him up for a successful start to the 2018-19 season.
“Next year will be next year, but this might give him that opportunity to see what he has to work on and see how he compares,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. “When you meet with young players, you tell them all the time what to expect and things they need to work on, but it’s nothing like seeing with your own eyes and getting on the ice. … That’s the best teacher, getting that experience.
“We’ll see how next year is next year. … He’s put his time in at BU and that Olympic experience has been invaluable, but it’ll be up to Jordan to show that he can stick here.”
Game No. 1
Greenway started on a line next to center Matt Cullen and winger Charlie Coyle. He had his mom, Shannon, his brother, James, and a couple of uncles and aunts in attendance for his debut and even though he’s never participated in an NHL playoff race before, he didn’t anticipate the pressure bothering him.
“At BU we had to win a lot of games to continue to move on,” said Greenway, who dropped 10 to 15 pounds after the Olympics before milkshakes helped him gain it back. “I’ve been in that environment before, and I don’t think anything is going to change. The ultimate goal here is to get as many wins as we can and keep winning. That’s been my mentality since I’ve been playing.”
Cullen for Masterton
During Cullen’s 20th season in the NHL, he’s become the oldest player in the league, skated in his 1,400th game and reached the double-digit goal mark for the 16th time — a memorable return to the Wild that now also includes getting nominated by the Twin Cities chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which recognizes the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
“It’s a huge honor to be nominated,” Cullen said. “You play a long time, and obviously I appreciate every minute I’ve had in this league. I really have enjoyed it more than I ever would have expected.”
The 41-year-old seemed on the brink of retirement last summer after hoisting his second consecutive Stanley Cup with the Penguins and third overall, but he ultimately chose to keep playing — a decision that’s suited the Wild. Aside from being a role model in the room, Cullen chipped in 10 goals and 21 points — one of which counted as his 700th — through 73 games.
He’s also made an impact away from the rink. The former Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State standout and his family created the Cullen Children’s Foundation, which has donated more than $2 million to organizations that support children’s health care needs — specifically those battling cancer.
“I think I’m more proud of that than anything I’ve done on the ice,” Cullen said.